Erin Medlicott (Flickr)
Erin Medlicott (Flickr)

This is an open thread.

122 Replies to “News Roundup: Ice Cream (Traffic) Headache”

  1. I-5 & NE 195th flyer stops? According to OneBusAway, there are 18 ST and CT routes that stop there. Anyone ever seen or heard of these before?

    1. If you’re talking about 195th in Shoreline I’d be surprised; there’s a pedestrian bridge at 195th (which is part of a nice low-key east-west bike route alternative to 185th) but I’ve never seen anything that looked nearly like a freeway bus stop.

      That is close to a Metro base, right?

    2. Perhaps you are thinking of I-5 and NE 145th? That Tia the only freeway stop on I-5 I can think of between NE 45th and Montlake Terrace.

      1. No. 195th in Shoreline. Go to OBA and zoom in on the location. The stops show up, and include arrival times for 22 different routes.

    3. There’s no flyer stop there. It’s likely a timepoint used for the CT/ST buses’ routing systems, which somehow ended up displayed as bus stops.

      I’ve noticed that when a bus gets on I-5 for the stretch between Snohomish County and Seattle, the next stop displays don’t show the next stop, but after the bus passes the 195th St area in either direction, the displays start showing the next stop.

      I’ve wondered why that happens, and those “bus stop” timepoints are probably the reason.

  2. The irony on the MuniLeague’s positions is that KC Proposition 1 was mostly about defending the lowest-performing Metro routes, while Seattle Transportation Proposition 1 is now about putting additional service where it is most needed. Every measurement in how “efficient” Metro is should be improved by the passage of Seattle Transportation Proposition 1. And hay, the buses are full. Thanks to Danny Westneat for reporting that reality.

    1. I also found it particularly disingenuous that the MuniLeague said that increasing funding would probably stop Metro’s march towards belt-tightening. Well…of course it will, since the whole point is to provide more funding to Metro because we want more service instead of tightening belts.

      I’ve tried making it through the most recent couple of MuniLeague reviews of Metro. They seem to boil down to the same thing that Dembowski and Constantine are arguing over: how much is too much money in reserve? That, and questions of “efficient routing.” I’ll grant that there are inefficient routes in Metro’s system–even after September 2014–but I’m not entirely sure what the MuniLeague wants Metro to do about that when Metro doesn’t have the final say over its own routes. If enough people can convince the King County Council that running the 2 where it currently goes is a politically good idea, then the 2 stays put. Their own 2013 report takes note of it, “[t]he new process is still subject to overrides by elected leaders if a group of citizens mobilize to protest…”

      Their 2013 report also says that Metro should, provided it can stay within 25-30% farebox recovery (it does), raise fares (it is) and explore “an alternative to the Sales Tax” (well, Prop 1 does have that, though best of luck finding anything else given this legislature). So far, in my quick reading, the two big things Metro hasn’t done that might actually make it past the Council are to scale back discounts given to employers that buy transit passes and adopt a means test for senior fares. Charging at Metro P&Rs would be a disaster given the current state of political affairs and I don’t see how “charging a fee for private companies to utilize Metro bus stops” would make any (more) money since the only company that does this–Microsoft–already pays.

      Ergo, in my admittedly-biased reading, the Municipal League apparently figures that Metro will spend like a drunken sailor on disbursement day, even though Metro’s people are smart enough to have satisfied 85% of MuniLeague’s last report…

      1. Got to love the ranting of the quack commenter on the Publicola article about metro running “empty buses”. It seems he doesn’t think there should be any bus service except when coaches are crush loaded. Great we can have a true 3rd world transit system where buses come ‘whenever’ and only leave their end points when full.

        The sad thing is he apparently rides transit occasionally as he has pictures and videos from inside buses.

        Otherwise I’d chalk this up to another case of having to explain to a non-transit user why they might see empty buses and why service outside of weekday peaks is necessary.

  3. “Real cities build real mass transit.” Interesting last line, Danny. Just curious about a couple of things, though. I’ve been in Stockholm, Sweden, Oslo, Norway, Helsinki, Finland, and San Francisco…

    All these places have tall buildings and lots of people. They sort of look like real cities. But even though they have subways too, they also have extensive streetcar lines. Which, like every enormous project, probably took more years to “break even” than our South Lake Union line has been in existence.

    Incidentally, all these places had streetcars long before they had subways. But I guess they just didn’t notice how much having the streetcars faded their realities as cities. Gothenburg’s long and very well-used streetcar system probably ruined the town’s chance at a subway- not the undiggable soil.

    Jeff Bezos and Paul Allen also started to fade as soon as they broke ground in South Lake Union, didn’t they? Nobody had been able to make any real money there for decades. I’m sure their books are totally in the black right now- or am I stupid enough to think future returns don’t count?

    One more question: how long did it take for the I-90 section through Seattle to pay itself off?

    Look at South Lake Union as a building, except being a whole part of the city instead, the physical plant is taking longer to complete. In SLU’s most expensive building, none of the elevator will pay for themselves until they have a whole a building around them.

    Though if they’d been financially responsible, I guess the owners really could have built staircases or just used ladders until the place was fully tenanted. And then put the elevators in.

    Look, the South Lake Union streetcar’s ridership is increasing right alongside the economic rebirth of South Lake Union. When the neighborhood really gets going- I doubt tenants and investors would wish they’d laid the tracks after everything else was finished.

    These tracks are also the first part of a car-line to Fremont and Ballard- at least. Or is the Route 40 good enough until we build the subway? Which itself will take awhile to pay itself off.

    So after thirty years’ residence in Seattle and same around transit, here’s my take: What’s keeping Seattle from becoming a real city, is the provincialism, cheapness, and aversion to leadership that’s also put “real” transit 40 years behind shedule.

    So look forward to Danny’s positive vote on upcoming Seattle Subway. Or do we have to take out the South Lake Union line and tear up the First Hill tracks first? Just askin’…..

    Mark Dublin

    1. It’s just a tactical shift on the part of Danny/the Times.

      They’ve spent decades poking at Link and LR and trying to discredit it, but now that the ridership numbers are coming in so strong they really can’t get any anti-transit leverage by attacking Link. The old approach was to transfer the conversation to Sounder North whenever there was some good Link news. But that didn’t work as nobody really seemed to care about Sounder North. So this is the new tactic — don’t attack Link or Sounder North, but shift the conversation to the SLUSC.

      But you are right, real cities tend to have multiple modes with varying capabilities, and these modes usually include streetcars.

    2. I think Danny is right to criticize the city for taking so long to get around to putting proper fare collection and inspection into place.

      However he fails to note there is already substantial subsidy from Amazon and other SLU property owners and businesses. He also fails to note some of the problems with the SLU line are due to the short length of the line, the lack of true urban frequency (needs to be at least every 10 minutes), the short service span, and the lack of strong signal priority.

      Indeed the Central City Connector would more than double ridership on the existing SLUT by increasing the number of destinations that can be reached without transfer, increasing service frequency, increasing service span, and adding stronger signal priority.

      I hope some of the issues with the current streetcar lines don’t keep the Central City Connector from being built.

      In an ideal world I’d love to see the streetcar extended up 1st to Lower Queen Anne; up Westlake to Fremont, Ballard, and Loyal Heights; up Eastlake to the U-District, Roosevelt, Maple Leaf, and Northgate; up Broadway to Aloha; out Jackson to 23rd; down Rainier to Mt. Baker station; and finally down 1st to SODO center and the SODO light rail station.

      Mind you in all cases whenever technically feasible these lines should be given exclusive lanes and full signal priority. Retrofit the existing lines where feasible. This makes the streetcars more like surface light rail and less like an old-school mixed traffic streetcar. Indeed this should be the mantra for transit city-wide, not just for streetcar lines but for existing bus service.

      Also the streetcar or BRT network should by no means come at the expense of fully grade separated transit. We need rapid transit to Lower Queen Anne, Fremont, and Ballard

      1. The street rail I saw in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, seemed to negotiate motor traffic, pedestrians, and bicycles- which have zero problems with grooved rail- faster than I expected.

        Generally, reserved and unreserved lanes often blend in and out with each other. Also, all cities seem to have a public understanding that streetcars have the right of way over everything. And no doubt national health care lowers litigation.

        Main advantage, and hard to duplicate quickly here, is that general traffic, and especially pedestrians, from early childhood come to understand that if you see grooved rail with a wire overhead, listen for the bell and step aside.

        On one ride in Gothenburg, I saw a lady pedestrian pushing a baby carriage at a pretty good clip, headed straight in front of our car. The driver tapped the bell. Without even looking up or stopping, the lady just slacked off her pace a little, and the car went by with plenty of room.

        In close range with people, like Oslo’s “City Hall Plaza”- a large stone-flagged waterfront park with a lot of lessons for us, the flagstones are raised about an inch with outside edge exactly underneath the outsides of the cars.

        So pedestrians have very clear idea of outer lateral limits of the streetcars, from which they can’t vary. A very clear advantage over buses without guided steering.

        On Westlake Avenue through South Lake Union, seldom seems to be major trouble with motor vehicles on southbound track, except near Stewart.

        Northbound, right turn onto Denny at Whole Foods really screws things up. One answer could be a train-operated signal so curb lane can clear when the train is loaded and ready to go.

        But if a certain new SLU industry decides the cars it donated need to move faster, shouldn’t be too hard to reserve lanes currently with track. While they’re at it, they can likely do something with traffic problems caused by their own parking garages.

        Still and all, I think there’s as much pressure to reserve tracked lanes when passengers get tired of streetcars being stuck in them as for fighting for the reservation in the while the line is still in rendering.

        Mark Dublin

    3. One further disingenuous framing is critiquing the SLU for not ‘paying for itself’. Since when is public transit in North America expected to ‘pay for itself’? Indeed do we expect this of other infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks, parks, fire stations, or schools?

      It is valid to say there has never been a good plan to cover the operating cost of the SLUT, particularly as those costs have been higher than anticipated. While I think extending the line via the Central City Connector will help some of the firebox recovery issues, the city needs to ensure there is a plan to cover the necessary operating subsidies prior to any further expansion of the streetcar system.

    4. Most cities with old streetcar networks built them at a time when they were fast, convenient, and efficient urban transportation. They were therefore the engine of suburban expansion in many American cities, and ran relatively unimpeded by other traffic. In some cities, like Chicago, they ran on today’s arterials and got up to highway speeds in some stretches. They were (in a prelude to later engines of suburban expansion) often thought of as noisy and dangerous, but necessary to keep a city moving that built up around them.

      The growth of private car traffic on at-grade streets and the construction of grade-separated freeways and interchanges destroyed streetcars’ speed and reliability and provided a faster and more flexible alternative. Auto-centric development around new freeways left streetcars unable to provide ubiquitous urban mobility without capital-intensive expansions. And then city buses came along, and were cheaper and more flexible. Those old streetcars that remain are in places where car traffic levels didn’t rise to the point of hurting speed and reliability (especially in Europe), or where the city undertook significant work to save them by improving speed and reliability (e.g. SF’s Muni), or where they had special nostalgic appeal and otherwise didn’t get in the way too much (SF’s cable cars and historic streetcars).

      New streetcar projects that make no attempt to be effective urban transportation are just confusing. The SLU streetcar is slow even when there’s hardly any traffic to disrupt it — this past Sunday took it on my way home from the airport on a lark (I now live kinda close to a stop, and I had a $2.75 Link transfer already, so why not?), and I think I could have walked home faster after the wait was factored in. How could such a slow ride be the beginning of a trip to a place as distant as Ballard? It would have to be upgraded to proper light rail standards, but that isn’t even possible with Westlake’s short and irregular blocks through the Denny Triangle. Westlake Avenue south of Denny is just not a good idea for any mode — the whole street could be removed and sold off (as it was under today’s Westlake Mall, or as is happening with the worst part of Broad Street, or as part of Milwaukee Ave in Chicago was removed years ago) and we’d all be better off.

      1. FWIW I find Portland’s streetcar network to be useful when I visit there. It could be more frequent and it could really use signal priority, but it (and MAX, and the buses) provides a useful way to get around when I’m there.

        Some real signal priority for the SLUT would do wonders for its speed. Further assistance could come in the form of either exclusive lanes or banning turns from the lanes with tracks in them.

      2. As a counterpoint, I don’t find the Portland streetcar useful, because it’s so slow and infrequent that I just walk instead. And that’s the problem with mixed-traffic streetcars. They have the worst of all worlds for speed, because they can’t even avoid obstacles or switch lanes the way buses can. There’s absolutely no point to run rail if it’s not in dedicated lanes.

      3. David, like I said, I’ve found the streetcar useful when I’ve visited, though I’ve done my share of walking because it was faster.

        Increasing frequency would help a lot, many of my walks were because by the time the streetcar came I could walk where I was going.

        Once on board the delays seem more caused by traffic lights than they are by other vehicles. While I’m sure exclusive lanes would help the streetcar in Portland, agressive TSP similar to MAX would help more.

        Rail has higher capacity than buses. This would be the one case where running rail in mixed traffic can make sense. Some of Toronto’s lines meet this threshold, but I’m unaware of any others in the US or Canada that do.

        Back to Seattle, we should not build any further mixed traffic rail and should try to fix as best we can the mixed traffic rail we have built.

      4. There are a number of problems with the Portland streetcar that really should be solved, but the exact problem depends on the part of the line you are talking about.

        NW Portland has a number of four way stops that really should be converted to signals now that there are several thousand people in high rises living there, let alone a streetcar line.

      5. Echoing what others have said recently but I think the solution is the Central City Connector/Tacoma Link/”Rapid Streetcar” type of streetcar arrangement… its a lower cost, lower impact, smaller scale LRT… streetcar type vehicles and their level of capacity on fairly inexpensive separated lanes. They need not require a building face-to-building face full street RoW rebuild like with LRT.

      6. Westlake should be made a transit mall (d.p. disagrees) through the Triangle, restoring the efficiency of the grid there. The cars should have signal priority over the crossing streets, except possibly 7th and Virginia. If they come every five minutes in each direction (a Fremont line and a U-District line in extremis) in most cases cars on the crossing streets would never be bothered.

        Most of the width of the existing boulevard should be converted to low-rise human-centered development; kiosks, small restaurants and the like.

      7. It’s not that it isn’t a pleasant vision.

        It’s just that it utterly conflicts with the actual direction that the street has been heading: edifices on podiums with dull lobbies and pocket plazas and loading zones galore!

        As ever, you cannot just “mall” streets at will and cross your fingers that the pedestrians will come. So, so many non-fudgeable preconditions must exist — chief among them an already-present non-hypothetical fuckton of pedestrians and shoppers and drawn-to-the-placers at all freaking hours — that simply do not exist on any part of super-wide Westlake.

      8. Making Westlake a transit mall wouldn’t solve its two problems:

        1. The one d.p. talks about: though streets running in odd directions with randomly shaped blocks are charming in many old cities, both Westlake and the many streets it intersects are too wide and the buildings too auto-centric for it to work there. Instead of each street you cross being an opportunity to look in a different direction it’s another place to wait for the light to change and the cars to clear, then dart across while turning traffic menaces from all sides.

        2. The density and complexity of intersections makes it hard to get the street moving, even with heavy TSP. Historically trains ran down Westlake, through where the mall is, all the way to 4th Ave — this direct route would have had priority, without traffic signals, over all the cross streets, of course! Today, with signals everywhere, the wide streets and odd angles of the intersections necessitate long caution phases and lots of turn phases, which limit the effectiveness of TSP. Denny has similar problems but is a more necessary street — there, we have to just consolidate intersections from the south.

        There’s only one good thing to do with Westlake south of Denny at this point, and that’s to do the Westlake Mall thing and sell most of the land. Maybe build parks or walkways if there are particularly strategic locations, but mostly just sell it and let the grid work.

      9. I’ve been told by those familiar with the Seattle streetcar network that the double track line through there used to be on east side of Westlake, where a lot of the parking lots for the buildings are now. So, east to west it was the Northern Pacific local freight line, two streetcar lines, and then Westlake.

        Thus, it seems to me that perhaps there could be some more space efficient way of orienting the parking (building basement parking like the ACC building has? several consolidated garages?) and turning what is very clearly on the map still a wide railroad right of way back into a very wide railroad right of way.

    5. Being a resident of Ballard, I do not believe that the 40 is a valid substitute for a subway. I don’t believe that the D Line is a valid substitute for a subway. Nor do I even think that a streetcar will be a valid substitute for a subway. The only viable option to get from Downtown to Ballard along the same route as the 40 is to have a grade-separated streetcar or some form of light rail.

      On another note, it pains me to look back and see that in the history of many cities across the US, streetcars and interurban rail service used to be very prominent. Being a former resident of Rochester, NY, their, now abandoned, subway line is a particularly harsh reminder of those days of transit. When I went and did a little investigation on why streetcars simply dried up, I learned about the GM Streetcar Conspiracy. Turns out GM and other companies from the ’30s to the ’50s bought out streetcar systems in various cities, dismantled the systems and converted the systems to bus systems. It almost physically hurts to see that all that work for dedicated mass transit infrastructure was simply removed. Sure, cities are working to rebuild it, but with all the regulations and politics in place, the growth is a snails pace compared to the days when they first built the systems.

      1. “Nor do I even think that a streetcar will be a valid substitute for a subway.”

        This is what I’ve been shouting throughout. A downtown-Ballard streetcar may be a fine complement to a grade-separated subway, but it can’t substitute for it. We already have buses with roughly the same speed and stops as streetcars, but what we don’t have is a fast way between Ballard and downtown or UW. That isolates Ballard from the rest of the city and county, which drives people to their cars and makes parking demand rise, even though Ballard-Fremont is the third- or fourth-largest urban village in Seattle (vying with Northgate).

        Fortunately ST said that 3/4 of the feedback from the downtown-Ballard hearings was for grade-separated rail. So that’s a good sign. If both modes are built, the streetcar would undoubtedly run downtown-Fremont-Ballard while the LR may or may not serve Fremont. Fremont is close enough to downtown that streetcar travel time is acceptable, whereas it’s not for downtown-Ballard trips.

        However, there has been an alternate unofficial proposal for the streetcar, to instead run downtown-Fremont-Greenwood. That may complement light rail better than a downtown-Fremont-Ballard streetcar.

        The main problem with streetcars is they’re in the middle: buses are cheaper so you can have more of them, while light rail is faster so it attracts more riders. Therefore we should focus on light rail and stopgap buses, and if we build a streetcar line it should be in the context of giving it dedicated transit lanes.

      2. Mike: Where have you heard about this Fremont-Greenwood alternative? Who’s working on it? I completely agree that we need a grade separated connection from Ballard/Fremont to downtown, and also an east-west connection in North Seattle (which has to be grade separated, given the gradient of the hills). If we get that, though, the current streetcar route wouldn’t do a lot. Westlake is limited by water on one side, and a highway and big ass hill on the other, and end to end would be way faster underground. But Fremont-Greenwood would fit nicely between a future extension North from Ballard and U/Northgate link.

        I also like that alignment because it seems like the two biggest advantages of a streetcar over BRT are capacity and neighborhood development. A streetcar is great downtown because we need more capacity than we can get out of buses, but in more distal areas, it’s potential for neighborhood growth that should motivate a streetcar rather than a BRT system. By that measure Aurora, where there is more demand now, is probably better served by BRT. Aurora is a place about function and little else, whereas Fremont/Phinney/Greenwood is more amenable to form. People aren’t about to pick Aurora to go wander around because they imagine a pleasant wait for a charming streetcar on their ride home. On the other hand, I’d be quite inclined to hop on a streetcar and go up to Paseo for lunch, or get a nice apartment in Greenwood and get to read a book on the streetcar on my way to work each morning.

      3. Option 9

        Several people including me recommended it to ST in our feedback on the Ballard study. I don’t remember if ST acknowledged it specifically; it added one of our alternatives at some point but I don’t remember if it was this one or this corridor.

        However, remember that ST is only going to act on the light rail alternatives. The streetcar alternatives are for Seattle to pursue. Now that McGinn is gone it’s unclear how much the city will prioritize the Ballard streetcar. It’s not in their current priorities, which are the City Center Connector, Madison BRT, the street improvements such as 23rd, etc.

        Whether it should run on Westlake or Dexter are secondary issues. Westlake’s advantage is it’s fast, which would be good for connecting north Seattle to central Seattle. Dexter’s advantage is the apartments there. There are legitimate arguments on both sides of whether Dexter should have a streetcar, the 5, or the current 26/28.

      4. While I’m still excited by a Fremont/greenwood alignment, on further thought, we should really only do that or aurora, not both. Less for concerns about duplicating service than because we need to connect such a line to an underground east-west line, and it wouldn’t make sense to put two underground stations that close together, in an area of that density.

        So the freeway-like but already dense aurora option, or the neighborhood greenwood alignment? I’m really not sure.

      5. Any Aurora line beyond BRT is way off in the future. It really isn’t worth worrying about at this point.

        Also remember the alignments for Ballard/Downtown and Ballard/UW aren’t set yet so we really have no idea where those stations will be yet either.

        That said a E/W station can easily serve both Fremont Avenue and Aurora at 46th as they are only 2 blocks apart.

        The larger issue to me is the ability to get exclusive lanes for a streetcar. While I’m willing to accept mixed traffic operation in short sections where exclusive lanes aren’t possible I don’t think building rail is worth the bother if most of the line is in mixed traffic.

        Which brings up the final issue, do we need rail in this corridor? As much as I love rail I have to wonder if most of the same benefits can’t be provided with exclusive-lane BRT. While buses don’t have quite the same place-making ability is the added cost of rail really justified by that alone? I don’t think Phinney/Greenwood really needs the capacity of rail. The politics of exclusive transit lanes might mean rail is the only way to get them, but I feel there are better corridors in the city to use the same resources.

      6. I agree Stephen.

        A lot depends on what we do next. If we build first class light rail from Ballard to the UW (with plenty of stations in between) then the fastest way to get from much of the north end to downtown will be via the Ballard-UW subway line. The only way for someone in Phinney/Greenwood to beat that would be:

        1) Via Aurora (whether there is rail there or not). Aurora does not serve Fremont very well (although that could be improved) and has a really bad “last mile” problem when it enters downtown. So much so that I’m not convinced that taking Aurora (via BRT or light rail) will always be faster than taking the Ballard-UW-Downtown route (even if there is a short transfer). I suppose it depends on where you are going (BRT serves Belltown well).

        2) Via a completely grade separated corridor. This is expensive (especially if you don’t use Aurora) and I don’t see it being worth it at this time.

        A lot depends on where the Ballard-UW route goes. If it serves Fremont directly, then making a good connection between Phinney/Greenwood and the rail line becomes problematic. Either you dig tunnels, build ramps, or ask people to walk from the edge of the Aurora bridge down to the station. Given the added cost, I don’t think that alignment is worth it (even though I love Fremont, and spend a lot of time there).

        If the Ballard-UW line serves 46th (with entrances on Greenwood and Aurora) then things are much better for Greenwood/Phinney riders. At that point, I am in complete agreement — exclusive lane BRT would be sufficient for those to the north of there. I don’t think you will need the capacity of rail.

        But if the Ballard-UW line doesn’t serve Fremont directly (and the Ballard-downtown line doesn’t either) then Fremont suffers from a “last mile” problem. We would have two areas, Fremont and South Lake Union, in that boat. It is sure tempting to tie these together, but you have a whole lot of nothingness in between. This nothingness allows for fast, cheap travel, of course, but you are talking about two tunnels (one in South Lake Union and one connecting Fremont with 46th) and a new ship canal crossing. That is expensive, so even leveraging Westlake won’t shave much off the cost.

        I’m not sure if it is worth it, but I would sure like to see how much it costs. I am sure that such a line, complimenting the UW-Ballard line, would be way more cost effective than a second crossing of the Lake Washington (to Kirkland) or light rail to West Seattle. I’m just not sure if it would be as cost effective as other projects (including other projects that cross the ship canal).

      7. RossB,
        A few thoughts:
        * A rapid transit station in Beltown would do wonders for the speed and reliability of Rapid Ride E. Before then giving RR E exclusive lanes from Aurora to the start of the 3rd avenue bus mall would be very helpful.
        * I don’t think the grade between 46th and Central Fremont is so extreme as to require a tunnel. Fremont Ave used to have streetcars and an interurban running down it.
        * Similarly I believe the problems with the current SLUT alignment can be solved without tunneling. At worst just rebuild the whole damn thing with center running and and exclusive lanes. It would still be cheaper than a tunnel.
        * The problems with the current SLUT alignment and the lack of destinations along Westlake north of Mercer are a good argument for an alignment serving Fremont via Dexter with access to the downtown core via 7th or Battery and 1st. The latter alignment could connect with a Beltown station on a Downtown to Ballard Link line.
        * From the Downtown to Ballard studies a ship canal crossing for rapid streetcars wouldn’t necessarily be all that expensive.
        * In an ideal world the alignment decisions for any future rapid streetcar and Link lines serving Ballard and Fremont would be made concurrently and would inform each other.
        * if Central Fremont is left out of ST3 some form of surface rail serving it becomes much more likely. With a Central Fremont Link station the justification for additional surface rail in Fremont or Ballard is much harder to make.
        * The place-making atributes of surface rail would be very useful on Leary and somewhat useful on Phinney/Greenwood, 24th NW, or Dexter.

      8. While I’m willing to accept mixed traffic operation in short sections where exclusive lanes aren’t possible I don’t think building rail is worth the bother if most of the line is in mixed traffic.

        What you “accept” here, with all due earnestness, is the canonical recipe for American Craprail: exclusive lanes wherever the traffic (and buses) already flowed freely, mixed-traffic running in the very bottlenecks where exclusivity and priority could make a difference.

        The recipe above is really another argument for not bothering with the expense of rail unless you’re willing to get it right. In the end, the vast majority of potential-trippers will continue to reject transit that brings them little benefit over driving… and that painfully reminds them of its unwillingness to do so throughout the journey.

      9. @Chris — I’m confused by your last comment. For example:

        >> I don’t think the grade between 46th and Central Fremont is so extreme as to require a tunnel.

        I honestly don’t care if you can run a streetcar up Fremont. It would be no better than a bus. There is no way that we would need the capacity of a streetcar just to shuttle people from Fremont to the train station at 46th. If you continued a streetcar from there to downtown, it would also have very limited ridership. It would be way slower than taking the train. Extend it north from there and you are in the same boat as what I mentioned — still not enough ridership to justify rail.

        As far as your other points, they are all basically a variation on the same theme. If you make street improvements (exclusive lanes) than those can be applied to buses (lots and lots of buses). If you don’t, then there is no way that people will ride it. Going Dexter might get a few more riders, but it is slower, which means even fewer will ride it a long distance. Likewise, an additional crossing either means an additional bridge, a tunnel, or sharing the same bridge. The first two aren’t cheap, while the third is essentially what we have now. For that corridor, you either have to spend the big bucks (tunnel) or you will never justify the use of rail. A slow streetcar to Fremont will be just as unpopular as a slow streetcar to South Lake Union. Keep in mind that South Lake Union has way more people, way more businesses, and sits a lot closer to the end of the line than Fremont.

        There are areas where we can leverage our existing infrastructure to great value. One was suggested on this blog ( This would leverage 15th (which has very few cross streets and a fast speed limit). You might be able to do something similar along Aurora with BRT. Add ramps from Aurora over to South Lake Union which then go into a tunnel and connect to Westlake. That wouldn’t be as simple to build as the option Bruce suggested (but it is similar). The problem is that such a route would skip right over Fremont (or at best be an awkward transfer).

        In Seattle, the main area where we can leverage our existing freeways is West Seattle. Remove the obstacles, and BRT could be just as fast as light rail. Faster if you consider the transfer penalty for most riders. For example, create another bus tunnel from the south entrance of the downtown transit tunnel. Have it go at least as far as the International District. Now add HOV ramps and additional HOV lanes (and other amenities for the surface streets). Now a rider from anywhere in West Seattle (including Alki and Fauntleroy) as well as South Park, Renton or Tacoma can have a fast ride into Seattle. Build a light rail line and either the riders transfer in the middle of West Seattle (which would cost them time) or watch their bus continue to slog their way into town. BRT would simply be faster.

    6. Yeah, it’s a pretty weak argument from the Times. I mean, sure, the SLUS isn’t the most valuable part of the transit structure, and as it stands now, probably isn’t a worthwhile project. But, as he said, “real cities build real transit,” which means that the SLUS needs to be lengthened, sped up, and to come with higher frequency. Then it would be real mass transit.

      Look at page 17 of this Center City Connector document:

      Just by connecting the SLUS to a streetcar done right and increasing the frequency a little, you can more than double ridership, and that’s without giving the SLUS any dedicated lanes. And the Center City Connector? Expected to be revenue positive, in terms of operational costs, and with link-type ridership numbers (30k/weekday) at a cost to the city of something like 35 million.

      What I’m saying is, yes, the SLUS is primarily a real-estate development tool in its current incarnation (though good God, an effective one – the gained tax base is already huge). But streetcars could be some of the best performing, cheapest parts of our transit system, if done right.

      (note: Obviously BRT could provide the benefits for less money if it is done right, but it is that much less likely to be done right, and the difference between the two is just a rounding error on the cost of a light rail project, anyway, so I’m not going to worry too much if we’re spending a few extra dollars for political feasibility).

      (Also note: Look at the map of bus crowding on page 16 of the linked document. If that’s not an argument for the high capacity of a streetcar, I don’t know what is)

      1. I sure hope the City Center Connector doesn’t rip up anymore bricks at 1st/Pike than to lay the very track bed. I’m tired of seeing “improvements” recently destroy entire brick and cobblestone streets because they aren’t up to current ADA code (i.e. Pioneer Square alleys)..

      2. “SLUS is primarily a real-estate development tool in its current incarnation (though good God, an effective one…”

        Citation please. Correlation does not mean causation.

        If you’ve lived in this city long enough, you aren’t impressed with the rise of South Lake Union. If anything, you wonder what took them so long. Paul Allen was smart to buy the property (I would have, too). Nice land with a view of a beautiful lake, situated between the two biggest economic drivers in the state (downtown and the UW) — again, what took them so long?

        Allow me to rattle off a handful of areas that were small (in some cases puny) when I was growing up that now have plenty of development: Ballard, Fremont, Bellevue, and — Good God — Redmond. Holy smokes, what happened to Redmond?! They must have built the mother of all streetcars there. Maybe Paul Allen had a part in that as well.

      3. @RossB,
        It is valid to ask if streetcars really have the economic development impact attributed to them.

        As you point out there are reasons to believe SLU would have developed exactly the same even without the SLUT. In Portland the development along the streetcar line is mostly limited to the Pearl District and South Waterfront which have other factors driving development as well. Similarly in DC while people joke that streetcars cause development even without the streetcar one suspects other incentives for development may be the main factor there as well.

        I don’t believe there are any other non-toy streetcars that have been around long enough to make any determination as to the development impact of a streetcar line.

        By contrast there are plenty of examples of rapid transit and light rail lines stimulating development, although often with zoning to encourage such development near stations.

      4. @jon. Are you sure that’s why they dug up the cobblestones, or was it that they were worn out, and (according to a SDOT spokesman I heard recently on the radio) it is difficult to find skilled cobblestone layers in 2014.

      5. Look at the map of bus crowding on page 16 of the linked document. If that’s not an argument for the high capacity of a streetcar, I don’t know what is.

        More than anything, it’s an argument for finally understanding that 15-minute headways constitute neither liberating frequencies nor adequate capacities on important trunk transit within a major city.

        That’s why Boston, DC, and Chicago don’t affix the “key bus route” label (used to imply a usable complement to the subway network) to anything running at less than 8-12 minutes. That’s why New York and Paris and London have vital bus lines running as often as every 2-3 minutes.

        Sorry. “Bus barely four time an hour, designed with zero standing room, feels sorta-kinda full” does not demand a conversion to (barely-larger) rail for reasons of “capacity”. Especially rail that would be just as unhelpfully infrequent. This is not the slam-dunk you think it is.

    7. Mark Dublin [ad hom]:

      Stockholm… Oslo… Helsinki… places had streetcars long before they had subways… [playfully reality-warping assertions about form and function]… [touristic nostalgia for center-city charm glossing over the actual realities of movement patterns in three vibrant modern cities]… [and, of course, a predictably total-bullshit psychological projection about Gothenburg “streetcars”].

      You have a right to your happy travel reminiscences and to your envy over Scandanavian urban functionality, Mark. What you don’t have is a right to your own facts or your fantasia version of history.

      Those three Nordic capitals are indeed cities, and wonderful ones that could certainly teach us valuable lessons, despite the differences in our size and physical form — all three, of course, being far less populous than just our inner metropolitan area, in addition to being infinitely more compactly arranged.

      And what better lesson to learn from their collective streetcar histories, other than that by mid-century the things were no longer cutting it as mass-transportation across growing and increasingly congested cities? (For reasons I need not repeat, because Al already did such a fantastic job of it above.)

      Thus exists Oslo’s Common Tunnel to facilitate an RER-ish system that exhaustively reaches all urbanized and urban-ish areas. Thus Helsinki’s full-subway spine (plus multi-directional extensions underway) to do the lion’s share of urban heavy lifting. Thus Stockholm’s comprehensive and ridiculously amazing Metro that, make no mistake, entirely supplanted surface rail by the 1970s! (The recent Stockholm trams, for mostly circumferential connectivity far from the busy city center, have about 1% of their ROW that could be remotely mistaken for what we call “streetcars”.)

      And then we have Gothenburg. Like I’ve told you every damned time you bring that place up, the streetcars of yore have never sufficed for even that comparatively tiny town. Which is why an ongoing, multi-decade program of capital-intensive center-city service rationalizations and streamlining, line expansions and ROW relocations avoiding anything that remotely resembles a “street”, and yes, long-overdue tunneling (!) is being undertaken to rid the people of the ineffective lumbering-charm system that you would have us believe we should emulate.

      This must be the fifth time I’ve reminded you that your “Gothenburg street rail” comparisons are nonsense. If your aim is to leave an advocacy legacy that nudges Seattle closer to your Scandanavian ideal than it was through most of your low-density, long-slogging, torturously-slow 20th century experience, then I can’t for the life of me see how misrepresenting your precedent every time you address the subject could possibly serve those intentions.

  4. PR Department, Islamic State:

    “A major US city in chaos! Huge crowds of trapped people perfect targets for altered kitchenware! Presidential Guard has no communications! See what ISIS can do with no effort! Oh, and BTW:
    Die Infidel Dogs!”

    Joint communique US Vice President’s office and US Secret Sevice:

    “ISIS is inhumanly attempting to claim undeserved credit and casting outrageous aspersions on the capability and credibility of agencies of the United States States Government.

    With their limited resources, this enemy is nowhere near able to back up this claim. As every US citizen knows, about this screw-up and many others: WE did it! WE did it! WE did it! And just remember, you terrorists: We can do it again anytime we want!

    And in addition: YOU try eating two ice cream cones at once! Especially if one of them has a double scoop!

    Behead this, you murdering savages! And realize the futility, because our leaders function in top form without one!”


  5. Two observations from a ride on route 255 through the bus tunnel during the afternoon peak.

    I had arrived on Link which was delayed twice between Stadium and ID due to buses ahead in the tunnel. Route 255 followed a route 316. Our bus made 4 stops at ID, 2 stops at Pioneer Sq and 2 stops at University St, each time stopping for additional runners. I suspect the driver follows the train and 316 fairly often because despite making the additional stops we didn’t delay anything since either 316 boarding or Link ahead of 316 were setting the pace. But it sure is a vicious circle – Link delayed by the buses ahead, which are delayed by Link ahead.

    Second observation – at least 6 riders boarded at route 255 at Evergreen Point station. That seems fairly strange to me because route 540 is operating at that time. All of them paid with ORCA. I suspect what it may really mean is riders who are exploiting the differences in the fare structures between Metro and Sound Transit. If they leave downtown on route 545, they pay a $2.50 fare to cross to the Eastside, and then the transfer to Metro 255 is free. If they had boarded route 255 in Seattle the fare would be $3. Whether they are paying by the ride or buying a monthly pass, the difference could amount to $18 per month (pass price), or $1/day if they ride both ways peak.

    The two lessons that I draw from that is that there is price sensitivity at our current fares and that the fares matter to riders, and that the varying fare structures on service the overlaps creates unnecessary distortions and inefficiencies. I think a lot of regular contributors to this blog either have employer paid passes or live inside the city, but at $3 we are at the higher end of transit fares, especially for relatives short distances to Bellevue and Kirkland. And for Chris-sakes, let’s put the same fares on Metro and Sound Transit for the same trips.

    1. Carl, isn’t there also a chance that these people came out of Downtown Seattle on the 545, and then transferred to the first Kirkland bus that showed up? Could also be former 255 passengers who got tired of conditions mentioned above.

      But you’re definitely right that any and all fare complications might as well be sawhorses with flashers in the way of transit.

      And, you’re definitely dead spot on about Tunnel operations. It’s bad enough that third outbound bus in line has to stop twice, just like on the street. Which could be eliminated if the organized dispatch built into Tunnel signalling were restored.

      But both Operations, and even more Training, got a “See Me” from their base chiefs to discuss a well-deserved PR (Performance Report, meaning alleged screw-up) over drivers stopping repeatedly for “runners.”

      In addition to slowing service, excessive door use often causes hybrid system to demand re-set. Which often demands a supervisor to help with. For Training, second incidence. Thin ice, operator, thin ice…

      Extra stops, fare collection…notice that just about every bus related operating problem in the DSTT results from buses not operating like trains- as was intended in Tunnel design. And therefore curable, no matter how entrenched every negative practice.

      Once these easy internal matters are taken care of, 255 could also be speeded up through bypassing the local stretch through Kirkland. Huge blockage a block before the library. Or rush hours, alternate both express routes from the Tunnel with a local route serving South Kirkland P&R and rest of current route.

      As with rest of DSTT operations, curing mishandling should provide much extra capacity.


      1. BTW operators of routes in the DSTT and downtown in general should get a ‘way to go’ from supervisors whenever a complaint is received from a runner about the bus not stopping for them.

        People need to learn that when the doors close they are SOL.

      2. I was surprised that he opened the doors 4 times at International District station. But we still left right behind the 316. It is training riders to expect that, however.

    2. Could also be that they took the first eastbound bus out of the U District (167, 277, 542, 556) and then transferred to the next available Kirkland bus (255/540)

    3. Price sensitivity isn’t the only reason to transfer at Evergreen Point.

      1. The 540 is operating, but it isn’t that frequent. If you’re starting from the U District and the 542 comes by first, the smart thing is to take it, get off at Evergreen Point, and transfer to the first Kirkland bus that comes. People transferring from the 43 or 48 at Montlake may also do something similar — take the first bus that comes to Evergreen Point and then the first Kirkland bus from there, both because there’s always a chance you’ll get a 540, and because these days Evergreen Point is a nicer place to wait than Montlake.

      2. There’s a P&R at Evergreen Point, and a bit of bike parking and some houses in walking distance.

      3. The 545 makes that extra counter-peak stop on west Capitol Hill. The 255 doesn’t stop anywhere near there, so that would be a reason to make a 545-255 transfer at Evergreen Point.

      4. You can board buses heading to East Base at Convention Place and Montlake, especially during counter-peak, and exit at Evergreen Point or Yarrow Point. Most people that do so are cyclists, but it’s perfectly reasonable to take one of these routes to one of the freeway stations, then transfer, to get the combined frequency of U District and downtown routes.

      1. It was around 5pm so the 545 wasn’t making that extra stop, there aren’t likely buses returning to base, it’s not very likely someone parking at Evergreen Point.

        While it’s possible that someone took the first 520 bus from the U-District, I think it’s more likely they came on the 545 from downtown, either because they think it’s faster to get the 545 on 4th Ave/Olive St and then transfer or because it’s a cost saving, or both. Unless you just missed the 540, it seems easier to get your seated once than to make an additional transfer.

      2. If you’re waiting for the 540 and a 542 comes by first, there is no reason not to hop on (at least if you are using Orca and don’t have to pay twice to transfer). At worst, you’ll end up on the same bus as if you waited, but if you end up catching a 255 that goes by in the meantime, you could save yourself some time.

    4. Catching the 545 upstairs during peak means not having to descend into the tunnel, and having a shorter wait for the bus. There are also a few other routes that pick up there and drop at Evergreen Point. Between all those routes, it is rare to have to wait more than five minutes for a bus crossing the lake, during peak. If the 255 were pushed upstairs, I’m confident its ridership would improve.

      Coming from the U-District, there is an even longer average wait for the 540. The 540 flunked every performance measure in 2013, according to the Draft 2015 Service Implementation Plan. This is in spite of it costing more to ride the 167, 242, 271, or 277 across the lake.

      The only reason to keep the 540 at all is that travel patterns will shift drastically when U-Link opens spring 2016. There is a case to be made for mothballing the route, and using its service hours to provide the extra trips the Draft SIP says are needed on the other eastside ST routes. Then re-path it to serve neighborhoods instead of parking lots in the middle of nowhere, re-brand it, and bring it back in 2016. One of the lessons here appears to be that park&rides are popular with downtown job commuters, but not with UW commuters.

      1. That’s kind of damning statement about the effectiveness of the bus tunnel. Though given how slow the trip on the 255 was, I don’t disagree. The put the 255 on the surface on 4th Ave which gives the added benefit that all SR-520 service would use the same stops in downtown Seattle.

        As for the 540, few would miss it given who rarely it runs. I consider that a huge proof point that the Montlake Freeway station should be retained somehow to allow the 255 and 545 to continue to be trunk routes with U-District access via Montlake (and actually a perfectly viable connecting walk to the UW Husky Link station.) And I mean without a time penalty of running via multiple traffic lights on the lid (which is what I expect will eventually happen,) If WS-DOT built those fancy stops at Evergreen Point and Yarrow Point, they should do the same at Montlake – and that stop is much more important to operating efficiency than the lid stop.

      2. It’s not just the tunnel. It’s the traffic on Stewart Street at Denny Way. That’s probably 1/3 of the delays right there.

      3. @Carl. I can’t really speak for the 520 routes, they don’t go where I need to be [actually, that isn’t true right now, but a trip to Redmond that takes me into downtown Seattle on 90, and then back out again on 520, means that I can’t really take the bus as a serious commute option, especially since there is no bus service within 3 miles of my house after 6:20pm].

        For the I-90 routes, avoiding the slog up from 2nd Ave and past Uwajimaya makes the tunnel an enormous win.

    5. ST and Metro fare structures really are confusing and strange. Link is $2.75 to Sea-Tac (or, if you’re desperate, $2.25 if you tap out at and wait for the next train at Rainier Beach) while the one-county bus fare is $2.50. If ST really wants county-level pricing, why make it only for buses?

      The worst fare difference is the $1.25 between Sounder and ST bus to Tacoma. Not sure of the rationale for that. The bus can offer a one-seat ride for any downtown destination, while Sounder forces an inconvenient transfer or a long walk to the north part of downtown.

      1. The worst fare difference is the inter-county fare between Lake City and Kenmore, 145th and Mountlake Terrace, and Federal Way and Tacoma.

        Ultimately when Link is built out to Lynnwood and Bellevue, it will become the primary trunk and everyone will get used to its distance-based fares. ST Express will then fill in around it, and have a smaller role than it does now. Hopefully then the ST Express fares can be revised on more of a per-route basis, to avoid the extreme inequality of downtown-Federal Way costing less than Lake City-Kenmore. The ferries have “short route” and “long route” fares, and Community Transit does too. So maybe ST Express’s future should be short fares on short routes (512 truncated at Lynnwood, 522 truncated at 130th, and the 574) and long fares on long-distance routes (577, 578, 594). The trick is to avoid penalizing people who take short trips on long-distance routes, so you try to separate corridor routes from those with long nonstop segments. That could break down on the 578 if many people make short trips (Auburn-Federal Way, Auburn Puyallup). That may require splitting the route to limit the long fare to the Federal Way-downtown segment.

      2. The worst fare difference is the $1.25 between Sounder and ST bus to Tacoma. Not sure of the rationale for that.

        Seriously? It’s not complicated, it’s called mode bias. The modern economy is filled with luxury items that aren’t actually doing anything the non-luxury substitutable good doesn’t do, when placed under the microscope of a cost-benefit analysis. “It costs more to deliver and people like it better” is a completely bog-standard rationale for charging more for something.

      3. The real question is why run redundant service, and then price the one that costs more to operate lower than the one that has lower operating expenses.

      4. It’s not like the ST board decided, “Let’s charge less on the 594 than Sounder, because we don’t really want Sounder to succeed.” It’s a side effect of needing a consistent and simple fare structure for all ST Express routes. Originally STEX had five zones, three in King County, and that confused people because the zone boundaries were different than Metro’s. The simplest would be a flat fare, but that was seen as too unfair to short-distance riders, so they compromised with two tiers at the county borders, which most people are likely to know.

        Why doesn’t STEX have distance-based fares, or even the same rate as Link and Sounder? I don’t know definitively but several possibilities come to mind. (1) The cost of programming bus-based ORCA readers for per-mile fares, (2) the dwell-time delay of everybody tapping off (which would be necessary for a distance-based fare), (3) the cost of rear-door ORCA readers, (4) buses have different expenses than trains.

        There are two ways to look at Sounder. (1) It’s the primary trunk so its fare should be the same or lower than alternatives. (2) It’s a luxury service and should have a premium fare. On the primary side is the fact that Kent has no express-bus alternative, and trains are more efficient than buses and use less fuel and less environmental impact. On the luxury side is the fact that Sounder’s per-passenger subsidy is around $32 compared to STEX’s $5 (very roughly). But there’s another issue: train and bus capacities. Some peak-express routes exists because the trunk routes doesn’t have nearly enough capacity (Federal Way, Easgate, Issaquah). Sounder may be near full capacity or would be without the buses; I don’t know. Adding Sounder runs is a major expense due to the cost of BNSF easements.

        But some of us hope Sounder will become half-hourly someday, and the primary trunk to Kent, Auburn, Puyallup, Tacoma, and Lakewood — without a premium fare, so that it can be “the Link of south-central King and Pierce”. But that’s a long way off and it’s unclear if it will be achievable.

      5. I don’t know where you are getting your cost information, but according to the 2015 Service Implementation Plan the South Sounder subsidy per boarding is $6.65 in 2013. The subsidy per boarding on routes 590, 592 and 594 are $6.46, $10.27 and $6.66. Sounder has much great fixed costs, and therefor lower variable costs than do the buses, so more riders should lower the cost per boarding on Sounder while it’s pretty flat on buses.

        Fare policy is under the ST board’s purview, and they are responsible for the decisions they make. Don’t make it sound like the board is the victim of process. I don’t think it’s smart to charge distance base fares on one mode and zone based fares on another as it creates precisely these kind of distortions. If they raise Link fares to provide low income subsidy and keep it distance based, you could end up with a $4 Link fare to Federal Way and $2.50 bus fare and then pressure to keep running duplicate buses.

        ST is adding Sounder trains to the South Line. I haven’t heard that they are at capacity – if anything the Park & Rides are at capacity, so they ought to be able to shift peak direction bus riders onto Sounder trains, and it’s silly to use fare policy as the reason to preclude that.

      6. So do you want distance-based fares on STEX or zone fares on Sounder? What about Link?

        The $2.50 bus fare to Federal Way will be long gone by the time Link reaches it. Link’s fare is currently below Metro’s for distances up to 9.5 miles (Westlake – Rainier Beach), and it will probably become longer as Link’s expenses rise more slowly than Metro’s and its per-passenger costs go down. Glenn in Portland says that MAX’s expenses are significantly less than buses’, so we should see the same when U-Link and North Link are running.

      7. Consistency is what I want for transit service. From point A to B it should cost the same without regard for the paint job on the vehicle or whether it has rubber tires or steel wheels. Whatever the policies are, apply them to all the providers and modes. And there shouldn’t be transfer penalties, so if it’s distance, it’s distance from origin to destination, not route-dependent. GPS is good enough to make that possible today. Generally zone based is easier for people to understand, and there really isn’t much benefit to not sticking to zones. But zones may need to be more granular that counties. Federal Way and Auburn are a pretty long way from Seattle and Bellevue.

      8. By the way, I have written before that Link will not be time-competitive to Federal Way or Tacoma, unlike Lynnwood and Everett where it will be. Commuters are the ones who will most object to that. So the best compromise would be to keep the express buses peak-only and charge a premium fare. Off-peak, Link’s frequency is compensation for the longer travel time. The two things passengers hate most are long travel time and waiting. So waiting five minutes for a train is more psychologically satisfying than waiting 25 minutes for a bus (or having to plan your life around a bus schedule), even if the train takes longer.

      9. “Hopefully then the ST Express fares can be revised on more of a per-route basis, to avoid the extreme inequality of downtown-Federal Way costing less than Lake City-Kenmore.”

        Aren’t both of these trips currently charged the same “One-county” fare ($2.50) on ST Express?

      10. Sorry, you’re right. I was thinking the zone boundary was between Seattle and Kenmore, but it’s really at Mountlake Terrace. See what I mean about ST’s and Metro’s differing zones being confusing?

    6. I occasionally do the exact 545-255 transfer you’re talking about. The reason is not the $.50 fare difference (I have a pass, and wouldn’t change my trip over 50 cents of fare even if I were paying E-cash) but the issues that Mark describes with joint ops. If I leave work earlier than usual, during the 5:00-5:30 tunnel crush, I can occasionally catch up with a bus I missed in the tunnel by taking a surface bus to Evergreen Point. It’s absurd, but true, that the surface is often faster at that time of day.

      1. Let’s overcome the politics that keeps the 255 in the tunnel then. It can never use the I-5 direct ramp, so it has a fairly convoluted path to get to/from I-5 all the time. If 4th/Olive is faster, it’s a win win to get it out of the tunnel and serve common stops downtown with other SR-520 service.

    7. Why is the 540 doing so badly? Are there fewer UW students in Kirkland than elsewhere? They can’t all be driving, not with the bridge toll and congestion and isolated/expensive parking at UW.

      1. There really isn’t much housing suited for students along the 540 route. Those that ride it are either employees or using the Park & Ride

      2. Furthermore, many successful suburb-UW expresses pick up riders from major P&Rs or transit centers that serve a fairly large area by parking or bus transfers (e.g. all the CT 8xx routes that go through Lynnwood). I can’t comment on whether various eastside towns consider South Kirkland a convenient P&R or not, but its rather slow bus service doesn’t expand the reach of the 540 much, because you don’t have to be all that far from the P&R in any direction to be better off connecting to more frequent routes like the 542 or 271, or taking a downtown express to Montlake (and either walking or taking frequent local service from there).

        The 540 is hardly the only UW express route that’s struggled. I don’t think it’s too different than the struggles of the 45 or 46 before they were cut.

        I don’t remember the details of ST’s stats, but it’s possible that counter-peak trips (which perform significantly worse than forward-peak ones) drag down its numbers. Other eastside-UW routes connect to much bigger eastside employment centers than Kirkland, and CT’s UW routes don’t operate counter-peak.

      3. Is there anywhere else in northeast King County that would be more suitable for students and those going to the U-District/45th corridor? Or are Redmond and Bellevue really it as far as major student draws?

      4. The 372 seems to do very well. Though a lot of the ridership is from 25th just north of campus or from Lake City.

      5. I also thought of the 372, though of course it serves an entirely different part of NE King County than the 540. The 372 serves a bunch of different needs, though I think it still has no weekend service.

    8. I agree with you about the price sensitivity.
      When the ST560 ran in West Seattle from Admiral to the airport (and beyond),
      the busses were empty because the fare was a measly 25 cents more than Metro.
      People would wait for a MT54 or a MT22 or a MT128 to travel around West Seattle because they could save a quarter.
      People drive 10 miles to save a penny or two on gas, why would the bus fare be treated any differently?
      IMO, the transit ‘system’ should be seamless – throughout the region.
      One fare to anywhere, no zones, no fare differences between carriers, universal ORCA acceptance.
      Build a bigger box and you can still think inside of it.

      1. Intra West Seattle trips were not the 560’s primary purpose. That would be like taking the 550 from Bellevue TC to the South Bellevue P&R. Yes, you can do it, but it’s just a side benefit of the route. If more people were using that segment than the rest of the route, it would suggest that Metro needs to address that segment and maybe (just maybe) ST should be reconfigured too.

      2. The ideal purpose of any bus route is to enable trips between any pair of stops on its route. Travel from S. Bellevue P&R to downtown Bellevue is certainly part of the market for the 550, just as Mercer Island-Bellevue is part of its market. In fact the best routes are ones that have good ridership along the entire route and not just at the center or at one end.

        I’m not sure the 560 has any particularly strong segments, although the Bellevue-Renton segment has become stronger since some 566 trips terminate at Renton.

      3. The purpose of a route is tied to the reason it exists. The 550 exists because of Seattle-Bellevue trips, and more generally Seattle-Eastside trips. Secondarily it serves Seattle-Mercer Island, Bellevue-Mercer Island, and Seattle-South Bellevue. Thirdly it serves Bellevue-South Bellevue, and fourthly the stops on Bellevue Way. The 550 would never have been created just to serve the stops on Bellevue Way, and it almost ran on 405 instead. The Bellevue Way stops are a compromise because they’re on the way, they’re higher density than most of the Eastside, the 550’s predecesor served them (or rather 108th and Beaux Arts), and it saves Metro from needing a short milk run.

        Likewise, the 560 did not exist for intra West Seattle trips, but to get people from West Seattle to the airport, Renton, and Bellevue. So if the 560 is missing intra West Seattle riders, that’s not a major problem, and not a justification for keeping intra West Seattle service. The 560’s job is to serve its regional ridership (and it’s not doing well on that either, or rather, there aren’t many people wanting to go around the south end of the lake it seems).

  6. Lake Union Park is a nice park. If you ignore the resident, invasive, aggressive Canadian geese that leave poop everywhere.

    Seriously, there is a parks crew out there almost every morning, whose job is to clean the poop with scrapers and blowers. Because of that, it’s not a park that I would want Seattle to have as it’s centerpiece.

  7. The Biden in Portland drama does illustrate the unfortunate fragility of our transit systems. A serious disruption in a “single point of faillure” location like the DSTT or anywhere along 3rd Avenue will has a massive system-wide impact. The West Seattle Bridge (really, any bridge, but the WSB seems to get it worst of all) is another critical chokepoint, as we saw again this summer.

    I used to keep track of when my transit trip “failed,” which I defined as taking more than 2x the normal travel time. Over several months, my failure rate was about 3%. Power outages and police/fire activity were the most common causes on weekdays. On weekends, it was mostly street closures for various reasons (races, charity walks, parades, construction, etc.) which caused reroutes and traffic.

    Unfortunately, transit usually takes it on the chin whenever something unusual happens. For some car commuters, the (somewhat uncommon) risk of these disruptions justifies driving. Driving might be just as slow and waste gas, but it isn’t going to be any slower than surface transit. And it will be in the relative comfort of your car, not standing face-to-backpack on a overcrowded bus.

    1. I was in a similar Portland mess a few years ago at Rail~volution. The conference was downtown, my hotel was on 84th, and that afternoon I was going to visit a friend near 84th. But Obama was in town and that blocked eastbound MAX trains during the PM peak, and even if I found a bus on a back road I’d probably be an hour or two late. So I called my friend to reschedule but he couldn’t, so we had to cancel the meeting. I spent a couple extra hours downtown until the blockage was cleared, and then went to my hotel.

      1. Next time that happens, try the 15. It’s not fast, but east of 42nd or so it usually moves along OK. It’s not like MAX, but it is relatively free of the mess on Division and the 4, and the 77 is probably awful during this type of thing as that is the closest parallel route to MAX.

      2. I skipped my own college graduation because some moron had invited former President Clinton, and the Secret Service was acting asisine. I want nothing to do with this.

        There should be zero government-provided security for former Presidents. Current officials should receive *normal* levels of security, not this “shut down the town” nonsense.

        I don’t know what will stop the fascistic nonsense, though. Probably nothing short of properly losing a war, with the foreign power occupying and burning down the White House.

    2. It screws up the roads pretty bad too. They close I-84 for some pretty long periods at times. One irate letter to the paper several years ago suggested they stop doing this type of thing downtown and instead have it at either the Expo Center or at the airport. We already have a collection of overly sensitive TSA officers out there.

      1. Next time the Secret Service wants to shut down roads or railroads for a visit by the President or Vice President or whatever, the city should politely reply “No.”

        The Vice President has two choices: he can take the risks associated with normal levels of security in a motorcade (as opposed to the bullshit levels of security which the Secret Service is currently employing) or he can simply not visit.

        In the long term, what will happen is that some high government official will get assassinated *with* all of this security theater nonsense going on — probably by a Secret Service agent. In most countries, throughout history, the equivalent of the Secret Service are by far the most likely assassins. I wonder if even that will eliminate this bullshit.

  8. A few questions because I haven’t seen the info elsewhere:

    Q1: When do they anticipate restarting the boring on the NB bore at MLP? Or have they already restarted?

    Q2: When do they anticipate the start of boring on the SB bore at MLP?

    Q3: Have they named the 2nd TBM yet? The first TBM is reused Brenda, but…..

  9. I’ve been thinking some more about how the potential 2016 of 520 service, and how it could work for the 255/540 corridor. I’ve seen lots of comments blasting Sound Transit for how the transfer would be, by necessity, horrendous, and unworkable. Ideally, Sound Transit would have built a transit center and layover space next to the UW station.

    However, even with the facilities we are actually going to have, it is still possible to come up with a modified route 540 that would lead to an improved experience for nearly all 255/540 users today, provided we are willing to think a little outside the box.

    My proposed route 540 (which, it is assumed, would absorb the 255’s service hours to run frequently all-day) would look as follows (letters in each map indicate the location of bus stops that the route would serve):



    Textual summary for those too lazy to click the links:

    Westbound, after serving Montlake and Shelby, the new 540 would cross the Montlake bridge and go straight at Pacific St., rather than turn left. This would permit a stop right in front of the station, making it drop-dead easy to hop on Link and go downtown. Next, the bus would head north of Montlake to Pend Orielle Road. Since Montlake here almost never backs up northbound (it’s the southbound direction that is subject to chronic traffic jams), the bus would move pretty well through this stretch, even after allowing time for waiting at the two stoplights to turn left onto Pend Orielle Road and enter campus. Once inside campus, it’s back to the 540’s current stops, albeit in the reverse order.

    Eastbound, the bus cannot simply reverse its westbound trip without needing to slog through the section of Montlake which does back up (which would lead people transferring from Link with extremely unreliable wait times). Instead, the new 540 would serve the campus stops in clockwise order, then head down 15th and Pacific, exactly the same as the current 540 does today. Except that, at Pacific Pl., instead of going straight, the bus would turn left onto Pacific Place, then make a right turn onto Montlake, bypassing almost all of the traffic, while still permitting a stop right across the street from the Link station. With the new ped bridge going directly between the Link Station and bus stop, the transfer would involve a lot less walking than heading for the current stop next to the UW Med Center, and, once the Montlake Triange construction is finished, there should plenty of room for a proper waiting facility with plenty of sheltered space to handle the hoards of people transferring off Link from downtown.

    Combine this design with a bus lane down the Montlake exit ramp (WSDOT is already planning to widen the ramp to two lanes; all we need is to get one of them striped and signed as a bus lane), and the result is service that is most faster and more frequent to downtown commuters. UW commuters experience slightly longer trips (~1-2 minutes extra each way), but they do get more frequency, and able-bodied commuters headed to some parts of campus might be able to shave some time by simply walking to and from the stops in front of the Link station. At any rate, today’s ridership numbers indicate that the vast majority of riders on such a route would be connecting with Link to go to and from downtown, so making the transfer as easy and quick as possible is more important than a couple minutes of travel time in getting to campus.

    1. +1 for thinking outside the box, and I hope ST and Metro consider this. Even students from central campus might find walking to the Link stops better than sitting on the bus as it does a V on the slowest streets.

      There’s also the northeast Seattle routes, although I don’t see how this approach would work for them. I’m currently favoring an overlap, with the 65/68/75 going down Montlake Blvd to the station and the 31/32 extended east to Children’s. That would allow for same-stop transfers between them on 45th.

    2. asdf, this is some very creative thinking. I particularly like the westbound route. The eastbound route will be very slow, but there may not be a better option.

      Mike Orr, the issue with converting all 65/68/75/372 trips to Montlake is that the overwhelming bulk of current ridership on those routes is headed onto campus. If both the 65 and 75 were made full-time frequent, I could see breaking them apart, scheduling the 75 to Montlake, and scheduling the 65 onto campus such that it reaches 45th a few minutes later (inbound) or earlier (outbound). There is also a lack of layover space near UW Station for that many routes, and if you through-route them whatever is on the other end is going to have horrible reliability.

    3. I don’t get why a new Montlake Freeway Station identical to Mountlake Terrace or Evergreen Point Freeway Stations isn’t being proposed by WSDOT? Better yet a bus-only flyover from 520 over the ship canal to University of Washington Link Station. This whole situation between the freeway bus station and light rail makes no sense and the 520 bridge rebuilt should have been the opportunity to make it right.

      1. Amen to that. I don’t see why KC Metro, Sound Transit, the City of Seattle and the transit riding public haven’t made it a requirement to either retain the same functionality that has existed for 50 years, or provide an improved dedicated transit corridor to the UW Husky station. The corridor is a $4 billion project that was promoted as as a transit corridor (in order to market the widening) and it’s simply disingenuous not to provide equivalent or greater transit function at this important location.

        I really think the agencies and cities dropped the ball here by not demanding more from WS-DOT, and given that nothing has been funded yet, I think they still have that opportunity. Either a straight bridge to the UW Husky station with a good transfer there, or an inline transit station on 520 (with no traffic lights or having to cross Montlake Blvd traffic) would provide good transit function. What’s in the present design is neither good for truncating routes at UW Husky nor for letting routes service downtown Seattle make a stop to retain U-District connectivity.

      2. Carl,

        Building an expensive diverter crossing the Ship Canal in order for SR 520 riders to transfer to Link is a mistake. While it would be permanently valuable for riders to and from UW, ridership on University Link is projected to be at full system capacity in 2035 from the transit shed in North King County and Snohomish County. So a significant volume of additional transfer riders would overload the system between Westlake and Husky Stadium. This is a potential difficulty with building just a Ballard-UW Link line and depending on the main stem to carry diverted Ballard-downtown riders.

        Riders from areas north of Bellevue not well-connected to East Link will continue to need bus service direct to downtown Seattle. So replacing the existing Montlake Freeway Station with a similar in-roadway facility is the better choice. And cheaper, of course.

        Now of course the ridership projected from north of Husky Stadium may never come to pass and the diverter would work, which would of course serve all riders crossing 520. But it’s a bit risky to depend on the system failing to meet its projections.

      3. “of course the ridership projected from north of Husky Stadium may never come to pass”

        If you’re looking more than twenty years into the future you’re talking about a new generation with changing attitudes. Seattle’s population trend is upward, and density is upward. The sacrosanctness of single-family blocks will probably erode over time, especially as we get more climate refugees and housing prices increase further. Replacing SFH with multifamily and townhouses block by block translates to larger Link ridership, moreso than our current urban villages and current zoning.

      4. Mike,

        Oh, I agree completely with your prognostication; I had no intention to imply that Link is likely to fall short of its goals. I was merely attempting to be a prudent counselor; there is some possibility that Ebola will decimate America, AGW will bring about a financial crash, China will ride herd over Asia and refuse to trade further with us, or any of a million and one black swans may come to pass, resulting in empty Link trains.

        But only a fool decides not to plan for growth based on such calamities. They rarely occur.

      5. …full system capacity…

        We did the math before, didn’t we? And found that such a physical overload would come about only if the U-Link segment were carrying 175,000-200,000 daily passengers per weekday, a pretty significant percentage of whom would need to be concentrated in the peak of peaks.

        Meanwhile, the very best 520 bus routes, busy as they may seem, carry… what… a few thousand passengers per day, total?

        So please pardon me if I

      6. …And I’m sure you just think I’m being a jerk here.

        But honestly, in a city where people still think trunk bus routes with 4 buses per hour, with seats full but with zero standing room to boost capacity, somehow constitute whopping transit success stories, the fact that anyone is openly worrying about train lines overflowing their 200,000-boarding design capacity is more than a little ridiculous.

        You’re hypothesizing a single line, primarily designed for sprawl access, and with notorious deficiencies in its utility for intra-urban destinations, suddenly carrying as >50% as many people as the entire fucking countywide transit network does today. And then you’re actively trying to reduce its utility on the basis of your certitude about that outcome.

        This is why Seattle Transit Blog winds up looking ridiculous to the average reader, be they well-traveled with tools for geometric comparison, or be they Seattle-hermetic but capable of basic algebra.

      7. d.p,

        So you advocate truncating all cross-520 buses at Husky Stadium? How do you propose to pay for the access bridge and turn around facility? Where would you locate the bus interchange? It really should be right above the station, but the station is already a serious visual intrusion on the stadium and Rainier Vista. So how do you propose to overcome the aesthetic objections people will raise to a sufficiently high bridge across the west end of Union Bay and smack in the middle of the Rainier Vista vista?

        These are real questions.

      8. Also, d.p., it’s not my assertion that Link will be at capacity in 2035. It is SoundTransit’s.

      9. Now I’m really confused. There are posters who say that it’s not a big deal that the Montlake Freeway station is going away, making it difficult to serve U-District riders outside of peak hours (see poor performance of 540 while the 255 still seems to pick up riders at Montlake), but it’s not a big deal because we’ll just send the 255 (and 545?) to the UW Husky station and riders will transfer to Link. Then when I point out that both the bus routing is craptacular, with several traffic lights on the lid, bridge congestions, the transfer stations on Pacific Street in front of the hospital, and if you really want to terminate 520 service at UW Husky, then build a direct bridge from the 520 HOV lanes to the UW Husky parking lot and put the station there, then the argument is that Link doesn’t have enough capacity. If Link doesn’t the capacity, then build a proper Montlake Freeway station that’s in lane like was done at Evergreen Point and let the freeway station service the majority of U-district riders including good frequent transfers to 43/48.

        Right now we are building the worst possible solution. It doesn’t provide a good experience for truncation at UW Husky, and it precludes buses headed for I-5 from providing a stop without a significant time penalty and increased operating expenses or at all. Why should this $4 billion project be allowed to debase the transit operations and increase their operating costs? Why should the highway project be allowed to remove a well-used facility? Why don’t transit riders needs get as much consideration as SOVs?

      10. Anandakos,

        I’m not advocating for diverting to UW station under current conditions. As Carl says, if this were a reasonable city, such matters might have been addressed in the design for a multi-billion-dollar highway rebuild. Nor would the equally expensive trunk subway wouldn’t have been designed with no attempt to make it less-than-excruciating to access.

        The poor infrastructure leading to an unreliable and unpleasant transfer experience is a legitimate reason to oppose diversions. The fear of the subway being inherently too overloaded to handle a few thousand transfer passengers that might find it a useful option in the direction they’re headed — given that such estimates would require an order-of-magnitude increase in transit modeshare — is a ridiculous rationale.

        Meanwhile, we could debate Sound Transit’s input numbers until the cows come home. I have little faith in their method, even for lines I approve of. Some of their estimates actually trend too low, given the trip-possibilities they expedite; others are clearly too high, given their reliance on massive and hardly-assured redevelopments and their willingness to ignore access penalties and other inconvenient precedents.

        But if Sound Transit truly believes its “spine” will be maxed 15 years after opening, to the point of actually discouraging usage, then WTF was it doing reducing capacity by 50% when it jettisoned the Montlake vent. It might be time for the agency to reconcile its most outrageous claims with its most outrageous actions.


        Someone needs to inject a little sense into the funding-is-infinite, rail-solves-all-problems, and the-free-market-will-deliver-us-a-perfect-future thought bubbles that pass for civic vision around here.

      11. About that 2035 capacity fill-up: My math on the peak-of-peak buses shows that reaching the capacity limit is real. The peak-of-peak SR 520 buses would make it worse, but the solution isn’t to deny SR 520 riders a decent transfer at UW Station, since many will be headed north (after later extensions open).

        The solution is to improve throughput, i.e. the number of trains that can get through a station in one hour.

        ST is planning to max out minimum peak headway at 4 minutes. This didn’t have to be. Three bottlenecks are driving the minimum headway: the unreliability of the MLK at-grade segment (which can be improved through various retrofits), the limit on venting heat in the tunnel under the canal, thanks to a decision to forego installing one of the originally-planned vents, and the dwell time in the most crowded North Link stations (particularly ID Station, Westlake Station, Capitol Hill Station, UW Station, and U-District Station). Some day, the engineering department will wake up and realize what a missed opportunity it was not to implement the Spanish Solution at ID Station, where there will be lots of train-to-train transfers after East Link opens.

        There are, of course, other ways to deal with the peak-of-peak crushload, such as traincars with no seats, added security to block runners from jamming the doors, with a significant fine for doing so, and a peak-of-peak fare surcharge (incentivizing riders to wait until the crushload clears).

        Also, the trains could travel more slowly through the U-Link tubes during peak, if it helps reduce the pressure/heat cycle.

      12. Given how commuter-focused a network ST seems intent on emphasizing, I certainly agree that the peak-of-peak is worth thinking about.

        But as usual, Brent, your eminently reasonable comment points to ways to address the issue (many of which involve actions that could have and should have been taken long ago), without intentionally reducing intermodal utility or building billions worth of redundant lines to avoid making people stand for five seconds.

        The truth is that our train cars, despite the light-rail moniker, are actually quite large. When run 4-cars long, there is a huge amount of spatial capacity to play with. You don’t need to run 100% seatless cars — those are incredibly rare, and not especially popular, and frankly not effective if you can’t ensure they come at the exact moment when demand peaks (and with perfect headway spacing). But you can easily create much more standing room with only a few tweaks to the interior arrangement.

        I would hope that no one in 2035 starts screaming “MAXED OUT!!” without having executed such a simple adaptation. Of course, many people scream “maxed out” about certain Metro buses today, even though Metro has patently refused to make it possible to stand out of the way of egress anywhere in its fleet, or to engage with the fact that 6+ buses an hour on primary routes is a fundamental ingredient of a mass transit network. So I have little faith in Seattle agencies’ definition of “maxed out”.

        Don’t get me wrong: I expect North Link to be a game-changer, and I would be thrilled if the paradigm shift were as total as the most enthusiastic estimates claim. But given my experience with of transit in places with true density, contiguous density, and comprehensive mobility-enabling transit, none of which Seattle or its transit agencies has been effectively chasing (even in areas where the market has been permitted to run free), my skepticism that we’ll see Boston Green Line or IRT Lexington levels of overcrowding — apotheoses of unambiguously maxed-outness — remains unabated.

        (A note on ST ridership estimates: As Matt Johnson has extensively noted, Central Link’s expanding ridership is attributable almost entirely to the Rainier Valley. In spite of the sub-optimal walkability of the area, in spite of a well-documented access penalty. Similarly, the Twin Cities’ overdue Minneapolis-Saint Paul line has been blowing away first-year usage predictions, in spite of the unforgivable dearth of speed treatments and the well-reported lethargy of the line. The lesson, in both cases, is that urban areas with multiplicitous all-day needs should not be underestimated, as they generally are in bureaucratic calculations — leading, ironically, to poor ROI calculations that result in missing stations and inferior speed/capacity treatments for the most urban segments. To the extent that the peak-of-peak capacity-crunch expectation is largely predicated on an unprecedented success along the long-distance, sprawl-oriented segments, and to the extent that this conflicts with every existing example worldwide of subways that experience routine capacity issues, I do think the sprawl-extension-based predictions can be taken with a few shakers of salt.)

      13. A few things:
        * presumably a vent facility can be added to the Montlake tunnels at some future date. This would allow much shorter head ways.
        * several alternatives were evaluated for connecting 520 to the Montlake/Pacific intersection. The high bridges were opposed by Montlake residents and the UW. Tunnels had technical and environmental issues. Costs were another factor. WSDOTs current plan is for a second drawbridge, but the neighborhood opposes it.
        * lack of a freeway station is a major fail. I’m sure money played a role here as well. WSDOT also claims there isn’t room for one similar to Evergreen Point and Yarrow Point.
        * given the amount of money being spent in the Montlake area by WSDOT, ST, and the UW for respectively the 520 replacement, Link station, and Triangle rebuild it is absolutely criminal these projects interface so poorly in terms of pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access. Not only do they not improve the current sub-optimal situation but in fact make it worse.

      14. The Montlake community has opposed a lot of things but they neither get to dictate nor are they getting everything they asked for. As it is the footprint of the roadway has increased, much of the traffic that use to use the ramps toward the Arboretum will now be routed much closer to Montlake Blvd/24th Ave/Lake Washington Blvd, Montlake Blvd is being widened, and the pedestrian and bike experience is not good. Someone is making the tradeoffs of what they will get and not get, and it sure seems to me that it’s being done at the convenience of WS-DOT and the optimization mainly for private vehicles, at the expense of transit and pedestrians.

        A second Montlake Bridge can’t be built with a significant impact on the north end of the community, loss of houses, and more road widening. It’s also unfunded. And it would still have to open. I doubt the political of financial will will be there to ever build it, so this crossing as well as the Pacific interchange will forever be traffic chokepoints as well as feature half-hourly bridge openings outside peaks. A transit bridge landing in the south stadium lot could have a relatively small visual impact since it is only 2-lane bridge. The UW will complain about some loss of parking, but a second Montlake Bridge would also take parking.

        If this transit facility to UW/Husky is not to be built, then they ought to retain an in-lane transit station. I refuse to believe that it cannot be done within the footprint. It’s just a question of money. If need be it could be elevated. Or the freeway lanes could be depressed one level. There is an engineering solution that lets them build a freeway station that’s similar to what’s been done at Evergreen Point – except stairs and elevators at both sides of Montlake Blvd. It’s certainly the best transit operating solution if they aren’t going to build a good connection to UW/Husky.

        I’m in full agreement – with the amount of money being spent on the 520 corridor and on Link here, it’s a crying shame how poor the pedestrian, bike and bus interfaces are.

        I don’t know how easy or expensive it will be to add a vent later. I assume that Link is pretty deep since it goes under the ship canal. If it weren’t a big expense they could have put it in now. It can’t be cheaper to retrofit it. I don’t understand the argument about MLK capacity since trains can reverse at Stadium. Every 3rd train could reverse at Stadium, and the other two could alternate between Seatac and Eastside. There are certainly subway systems that operate at 2.5 minute headways.

      15. d.p.

        What do you mean by “a dearth of speed treatments” on the University Avenue line? Does it have conditional signal pre-emption like the MAX Yellow Line north of Lombard? That is, the driver hits the request button which starts the countdown for door closure, departure and the signal cycle.

        If a runner jams the doors and delays departure, the train can get snagged by falling signals and will have to stop at every cross-light until the next station where it can get back on cycle.

        Is that what you mean or something else.

        The alternative sort of signal pre-emption is what Westside MAX has. It’s essentially treated like a Class 1 railroad train. As a MAX train approaches the signal lights start to flash and the crossing gates go down. There is no possibility that the train has to stop for a car, unless of course the car bashes through the gates and gets T-boned by the train.

        The same “when the train approaches change the signals” can be applied to Light Rail (or ssshhhh streetcars) running in a reservation but usually takes a political fight.

        BRT can have it too via radio, but usually just gets “signal lengthening” like on the E-Line in North Seattle.

      16. Carl,

        I personally believe that the Montlake Freeway Station should be rebuilt to modern standards. Whether or not it needs to be a concrete palace like Evergreen Point and Mountlake Terrace is certainly debatable, but the need for it is not. The City of Seattle is not going to ruin the extremely valuable and politically powerful Montlake neighborhood, and UW will throw a serious hissy fit to stop any bridge high enough to pass maritime traffic, even if it is “only two lanes wide” [emphasis added].

        I seriously doubt that UW would even agree to a Montlake Bridge-height opening span out in Union Bay. Anything lower than the existing bridge in the cut would be a catastrophe because it would have to be opened for many of the smaller recreational boats which clear Montlake.

        Even if d.p. is right that North Link will fail to meet its ridership goals or alternatively even if SoundTransit digs the Montlake vent and reduces headways to add capacity, forcing a transfer at Husky Stadium for all riders from the northeast quadrant of East King County headed to downtown Seattle will be a flop. Because ST refused to connect the west side of the street to the mezzanine the transfer experience eastbound will always and forevermore be horrible.

        Take your choice, folks: a six minute walk up and over the Triangle Bridge and then down to the UWMC underpass or a five minute walk up and over and double back to Montlake if asdf’s alternate eastbound routing is chosen OR four minutes to cross wide and noisy Montlake and then underpass Pacific then walk another block west to the stop or if the pretzel route is adopted, a long half block up Montlake to a crowded bus zone.

        Now maybe some sort of elevated busway can be concocted from the north bridgehead but that gets back to ruining the Rainier Vista.

        There is no pleasant way to force a transfer here.

      17. anandakos – I think we are agreeing – either a rebuilt Montlake Freeway station (with entrances on both the east and west sides of Montlake Blvd for traffic in both directions), or else a much better transfer experience at UW Husky. The optimum for that would be a bridge directly connecting the HOV lanes with the UW Husky station. I agree that that will have a lot of political opposition from several sources. But if the Eastside services were to be shortened to have a connection here, that would be the only way to make it reliable and without significant time penalty. The alternate solutions using the Montlake lid and Montlake Blvd still have significant traffic congestion, bottlenecks, time penalties and a poor transfer experience. I do think that UW Husky station should have had a mezzanine level passage under Montlake Blvd with exits in the Triangle and I’m not privy to the reasons why that was not provided.

        The Montlake Freeway station should not create any negative impact on the Montlake community. The Montlake community is not the primary beneficiary of such a station – it’s the riders who can transfer here with connections on routes 43/48 in both directions, and the lower operating costs that Metro and ST will have if they don’t have to operate service like the 540 and 542 during non-peak periods.

      18. “There is no pleasant way to force a transfer here without an underpass from the mezzanine to the west side of Montlake Boulevard on the eastern edge of the Triangle Garage.

      19. I don’t know much about Twin Cities operational politics, but I guess the thing was intended to have TSP, but the version implemented was a pretty weak sauce. Whatever the reason, it has been well-publicized that even the design specs for the line saw it taking 40 minutes to go a mere 11 miles, and that upon opening it took nearly an hour. Pretty unacceptable.

        Nevertheless, the line has already exceeded its 2020-ish expectations — not an especially high number by absolute standards, but high for Minnesota — by simple virtue of actually connecting multiple urban places together. I’m sure the numbers would be even better if the thing moved quickly.

        The lesson that the leaders of expansionist cities of moderate density have continually failed to get through their heads is that successful rail transit tends to involve cross-urban connectivity, while their highway-duplicating, actual-place-skirting hinterlands-oriented lines ultimately tend to perform less well than imagined.

  10. What’s with the ads covering Metro buses for Downtown Seattle Parking and advertising how easy and cheap it is?!?

    1. Then there’s the ad for a company that makes car loans to people with bad or no credit history: “Find a better seat!” that I’ve seen inside at least one bus.

  11. The Secret Service should be told that the trains are not going to be delayed for the Vice President or the President, and if they can’t tolerate the “security risk”… then don’t visit Oregon.

  12. I got to ride the “Hot Dog Bus” this evening from 90th and Aurora to A Village. WOW! The communication with the lights allows the drivers to just SMASH through the lights in Seattle proper, knowing that the light has acknowledged the bus’ presence. It’s is exhilarating!

    The Metro planners were also very squeeze down the stop separation once they get in Shoreline to about 1/3 mile, every five blocks. It’s Shoreline’s premier bus and has an important catchment area through the downtown strip. Very savvy.

    I’d nominate RapidRide “E” as bus by “the pro’s!” Congratulations Metro!

    1. The E Line works very well except for when it is in Faye Garneau territory. It can take forever to get through the northbound light at Aurora/Winona, and the Faye Memorial Parking really hurts speed in both directions, especially at midday.

      Ed Murray, just [ad hom]. Get full-time exclusive bus lanes done all the way south to Winona. 13,000 daily E Line riders will thank you.

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